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In an ideal world, you never gamble with your health

If only worlds were ideal. Everyone would have the money to hand and no pre-existing medical conditions. They would buy into any insurance policy, get great value with everything covered and then, ironically, never fall ill. Life would be perfect. Unfortunately, insurance premiums have been rocketing upwards and disposable incomes have been sinking fast so insurance companies have reacted in the only way a for-profit company can — they reduced the scope of the coverage on offer. This puts pressure on everyone to search the market to find those companies representing the best value-for-money. So just how bad is it? Well, as a healthy private citizen under the age of forty years, if you shop around, you can get coverage for less than $200 a month. This will not be a gold-plated policy but it will give you a reasonable level of protection. The idea is to save you from bankruptcy if you have a serious accident or are unlucky enough to catch some serious disease. Being practical is the name of the game.

As a sign of this practicality, the age range of nineteen to twenty-nine is the most underinsured group in the US. These are the invincible people who never believe they will fall ill and always forget they are the group most likely to be injured in traffic accidents. So when people finally see the need to insure, where do they find the affordable policies? The answer, in an ideal world, is that your state’s Department of Insurance offers some kind of guide to find affordable insurance. Every state in the union has a duty to regulate the insurance companies in their territory. They also operate complaints schemes so they know where many of the bodies are buried. So some states like Idaho publish guidance for those who do not have a health plan through their parents or employment. What you look for depends on what level of risk you want. A basic policy is better than no policy. If you have some savings or a guaranteed line of credit you can tap, go for a high deductible. Having a policy where you pay the first $5,000 is a good deal if you need long-term care. The larger the deductible you agree to, the lower the monthly premium. Really basic policies can cost less than $50 per month for a limited range of serious injuries and illness.

Being honest, you should never gamble with your own health or the health of your family but, every day, that is what this recession is forcing people to do. It would be great to be able to give you a promise that you will always find affordable health insurance, but life is not always fair. You can find you have the first symptoms of a long-term illness. Circumstances can change and the deductible you signed up for is no longer within your means. So, when you buy health insurance, you are always gambling just a little. Hopefully, you will come out a winner.

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